Where's the Wall Street perp walk?
In "Lehman Justice Isn't Blind, It's Unconscious," Jonathan Weil writes:
"It is so widely accepted that Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s balance sheet was bogus that even former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson can say it in his new memoir. And still, the government hasn’t found anyone who did anything wrong at the failed investment bank.
"How could that be, 17 months after Lehman collapsed and sent the global credit crisis into overdrive? While Congress and the White House dither about reforming the U.S. financial system, the wheels of justice are grinding so slowly, if at all, that it seems there’s no appetite in Washington for holding Wall Street executives accountable for anything."
This isn't just a question of justice or revenge -- which would be good enough -- but, as Weil writes:
"The requirement that publicly owned corporations disclose complete and accurate financial reports is part of the bedrock of U.S. securities laws. Just as important is the promise that the government will enforce those laws when they’ve been broken. Undermine the public’s faith in either of those functions, and confidence in the capital markets crumbles.
"There’s been much talk the past two years about moral hazard, which is the risk that companies and their investors will behave more recklessly when they believe the government will bail them out. Less has been made of a similar hazard: The danger that powerful companies won’t follow the law when their executives believe the government won’t hold them to it.
"The latter risk threatens not only our economy, but our democracy. There’s every reason to believe both kinds are growing."
Robert Brokamp is the senior advisor for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service.